Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thome Not Viewed as Great as Others in 600 Club

Jim Thome has now become the 8th man to hit 600th career home runs. Of those 8 men, 3 (Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Sammy Sosa) are under the suspicion of using steroids to enhance their performance. Because of this you could argue that there are really only 5 players who are undisputed 600 home run hitters (Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Thome).

While Thome’s accomplishment is impressive, and he is one of the nicest guys around, he unfortunately is not viewed as being on the same level of legend as Ruth, Aaron, Mays, and Griffey are. In fact, Jim Thome has never been “The Man” on his team. Never that franchise player the team is built around.

In Cleveland where Thome spent his first 12 years he was often overshadowed by the likes Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, and Roberto Alomar.

In Philadelphia Thome was traded away to make room for a “real superstar” named Ryan Howard. Thome came to the White Soxs after Paul Konerko had led them to a World Series victory and was cemented in his position as the White Sox’s “main man”.

Thome never an MVP and has finished in the top 10 of MVP voting only 4 times never finishing higher than fourth.

Thome’s teams never won a World Series losing in 95 and 97. Thome never played any position in field well defensively. In fact, Thome is most known as a DH, not a legendary all-around outfielder as Ruth, Aaron, Mays, and Griffey are viewed.

Thome never inspired a cool nickname like Ruth (The Sultan of Swat, The Bambino), Aaron (Hammerin’ Hank), Mays (Say Hey Kid), or Griffey (Junior).

Thome was always been Robin to someone else’s Batman. Thome hit home runs, walked and was a great teammate, but he never had the myth that he was “the man”.

Like the Twins now Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, Thome has piled up impressive stats without developing a myth of immortally. The other night Blyleven complained on television that Derek Jeter chase of 3000 hits got more attention than Thome chase for 600 home runs. Blyleven said that Thome feat was greater than Jeter’s because fewer people had achieved it.

Maybe so, but in reality when people look back at this era, Derek Jeter will be viewed as much greater player than Thome whether he was or not. Derek Jeter has the myth of being a franchise player on multiple championship teams. No amount of home run Jim Thome hits will overcome that.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Terry Pendleton Helps Me Remeber the 1991 Minnesota Twins

I sent a baseball card to 1991 NL MVP Terry Pendleton on 7/30/2008. Mr. Pendleton was a member of the 1987 St. Louis Cardinals and the 1991 Atlanta Braves making him the only man to be on the 2 teams the Twins beat to win their 2 World Series Championships.

This weekend the Twins will celebrate the 20 anniversary of their 1991 World Championship team by hosting the reunion celebration. Many of the players of the 1991 team will return to be honored.

The 91 Twins are considered the best Twins team ever.

Jack Morris, Kevin Tapani, and Scott Erickson were the foundation of a good starting staff. Rick Aguilera, Mark Guthrie, Willis, Steve Bedorisan, and Terry Leach anchored a strong bullpen.

The everyday lineup of Kirby Puckett, Shane Mack, Dan Gladden, Chili Davis, Kent Hrbek, 91 AL Rookie of the Year Chuck Knobluach, Greg Gagne, Mike Paglirulo/Scott Lieus, and the underrated Brian Harper, who in 469 plate appearances amazingly stuck out only 22 times and even more amazingly walked only 14 times, formed one of the best hitting and fielding Twins lineups ever.

Add in key reserves Randy Bush, Al Newman, Junior Oritz, and Gene Larkin, and you had one great team.

The 1990 Twins had the worst record in the American League, and the 91 team started the season with a 2-9 west coast road trip. In June however they reeled off a 15 game win streak, and ended the season with the best record in the American League.

Puckett would hit .429 with 2 home runs to help the Twins beat Toronto in the 1991 ALCS (Toronto would go on to win the 1992 and 1993 World Series). I watched the end of climatic game from the concourse of the Target Center because my Mother and I had tickets to the Judds “farewell tour”.

The 1991 World Series against Atlanta was in my opinion the best World Series of all-time. Five of the seven games were decided by one run with all five of decided in the last at bat.

Three of the games went into extra innings including Games 6 and 7 with Game 6 ending on a Kirby Puckett walk-off home run, and Game 7 ending up being 1-0 in 10 innings.

Jack Morris outpitched Atlanta John Smoltz in Game 7 going all 10 innings giving up 7 hits 0 runs while walking 2 and striking out 8. It was the greatest World Series pitching performance of all-time, and for it Morris was named the World Series MVP for it

My brother and his then young son had come up from Texas to visit, and together with my parents we watched the Twins win Games 6 & 7. The memory of Jack Buck calling out, “the Twins are going to win the World Series, the Twins have won it” as Gene Larkin lifted the series winning hit in the bottom of the 10th still echoes pleasantly in my head.

Today as I was thinking of posting something about the 91 Twins I got a signed baseball card in the mail. It was from Terry Pendleton whose memories of the 1991 are not as good as mine. 1099 days after I sent it (that’s 3 years and 4 days) my Terry Pendleton card returns to provide me a chance to remember some of my best memories as a Twins fan.

I know you did not do it intentionally Mr. Pendleton, but thanks for helping me remember some good times. Win Twins!